What is the head of a major enterprise software company doing in a keynote presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas? That's a question that Salesforce .com CEO Marc Benioff asked himself on Wednesday.
Benioff, who was interviewed on stage by MediaLink CEO and chairman Michael Kassan about Marketing in the Cloud, pointed out that the consumer technology industry is "not my industry per se," and rhetorically asked himself, "What am I doing here?" To which he answered: "I don't even know."
But then he went on to cite reasons why consumer technology interests Salesforce.com. To begin with, he noted that virtually every device in the big trade show this week seems to be connected to the cloud , echoing Salesforce's emphasis on the cloud since its founding.
Toyota as an App
Benioff went on to point out a variety of ways in which what used to be described as marketing, customer service and customer relationship management (CRM ) are being driven by social media into new directions that blur the distinctions, as companies compete to keep their customers. As an example, he noted that he asked a Toyota executive why there isn't a "Toyota Friend" model that can connect to other cars, or why the car itself can't run as an app off of an iPhone. The iPhone, he noted, is already "more powerful" than the computer in the car.
He said that some companies conduct what amounts to "social media stalking," and, when their brand is mentioned in social media, they connect to say, in effect, "We love you, too." But, Benioff added, "they can't tell" where those social customers are physically or virtually, meaning that their customer understanding is very limited. Another example: If a Net-connected dishwasher develops a problem, someone from the brand should be calling the dishwasher owner to fix the problem, he said, pointing to what could become the next phase of increasingly pro-active customer service.
Customer service, he indicated, is "the new marketing," when problems about a brand could easily get solved by the brand -- and then the customer pays back that investment by demonstrating his enthusiasm to his friends via social media. (continued...)